Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Google and Facebook owe news publishers $12 billion a year for their content, according to a new study

Most of Meta’s profits come from its advertising
, or 113.6 billion dollars in 2022.
(Image by Dima Soloman, Unsplash)
A recent State of Local News Report revealed that more than 100 newspapers are closing each year in the United States as the news industry struggles to remain profitable. But another recent study places a large share of the blame for those struggles on unfair business practices by Google and Facebook, which are blamed for making billions of dollars off of news content while sharing only a small percentage of that money with the companies producing the content.

“We’re not dying of old age, we’re dying of homicide,’” Danielle Coffey, CEO of the News/Media Alliance trade group, told Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times.

Professors at the University of Houston and Columbia University conducted the research along with The Brattle Group, a consulting firm based in Boston. According to Dudley, the study “estimates that Google and Facebook owe U.S. news outlets at least $12 billion a year for the value news content adds to their platforms.”
Google's brand is valued at 251.75 billion dollars.
(Photo by Mitchell Lao, Unspash)

The study is just the latest in a long line of accusations that Google and Facebook are harming other business competitors, Dudley reported. "Investigations by state and federal antitrust enforcers found the platforms are unfairly exploiting their immense power. The U.S. Department of Justice’s latest case against Google alleges that publishers are getting shortchanged and have no choice but to use the monopolistic platform."

News content remains popular, but now that readers are consuming more news online, publishers find it difficult to make money that way, because Google and Facebook dominate much of the online advertising market.

“Correcting that imbalance, by giving outlets more bargaining power and a better chance to survive, is the motivation behind media-bargaining policies approved in Australia, Canada and France and under consideration in other countries,” Dudley reported. “A U.S. version, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, has bipartisan support and nearly passed last year.”

Coffey told Dudley: “It’s eye-opening how much revenue is generated off our content.”

The overdose crisis isn't over, it's evolving

Suboxone is less effective in treating
some additions. ( photo)
Powerful synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, xylazine and stimulants are undercutting the effectiveness of prescription drug treatments, leaving programs and patients struggling, reports Taylor Sisk of KFF Health News. Vermont, a state that pioneered prescription addiction treatments, is facing new challenges to help substance-abuse victims avoid overdoses and succeed in recovery.

Vermont's "Hub and Spoke" program is part of the statewide Blueprint for Health, with "hubs in relatively populous areas of this largely rural state," Sisk writes. "A patient enters the system for assessment and initial induction at one of nine hubs and then, once stable, is transferred to a spoke. If that patient relapses or needs more intensive care, they can be transferred back to the hub. The spokes typically offer Suboxone — the brand name for a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone -- and the most effective for those with mild to moderate opioid dependence — but not methadone, which is more regulated."

The mix of street drugs combined with their potency limits the impact of prescription care. "Suboxone has proved less effective against fentanyl, and commonly used doses can trigger violent, immediate withdrawal," Sisk explains. "Neither Suboxone nor methadone is designed to treat addiction to xylazine or stimulants. . . . The nation has also seen a significant increase in overdose deaths from co-use of stimulants and opioids."

Without effective prescriptions as part of a withdrawal plan, people with an addiction are less likely to succeed during the early days of recovery. "Those who seek help breaking their addictions face treatment options rendered less effective by the prevalence of fentanyl, xylazine, and other synthetic drugs," Sisk reports. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the more than 111,000 drug-overdose deaths in the U.S. in the 12-month period ending in April, more than 77,000 involved fentanyl and other synthetic opioids."

Jess Kirby, director of client services for Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, which offers services to counter substance use disorder, told Sisk: “There was a time when we couldn’t have pictured things being worse than heroin. Then, we couldn’t picture things being worse than fentanyl. Now, we can’t picture things being worse than xylazine. It keeps escalating. . . . We have a drug supply that’s contaminated with xylazine and fentanyl, and we know that people are struggling a lot more and are at a lot higher risk. It’s not just an overdose to be concerned about anymore. It’s life-threatening wounds and infections."

Tony Folland, clinical services manager with the Vermont Department of Health’s Division of Substance Use Programs, "said fentanyl is now implicated in about 96% of overdose deaths."

Opinion: This holiday season, avoid political fights and focus on connections with family and friends

Enjoy the food instead of fighting.
(Quora photo)
Leaving political opinions and arguments out of holiday get-togethers is a recipe for more enjoyable meals that focus on connections, writes Mary Katherine Ham in her opinion for The Spectator. "There will be plenty of people in media who tell you it is your moral responsibility to ruin food and fellowship with political confrontations. . . . It doesn’t have to be this way. There was a time, not too long ago, when we didn’t have to turn every breaking of bread into a struggle session. Luckily, there’s a roadmap to show the way back to that time."

Allowing for a spirit of goodwill and family fun leaves little room for banter over MAGA or Washington Post articles. "You don’t beat politics addicts by trying to meet them on their extortionary ground — you win by standing up for yourself and your right to ignore politics for an evening," Ham adds. "Act like an adult . . . .Your gatherings don’t need a conscience, they need grown-ups mature enough to value connection rather than mere information."

Embracing family traditions and connections can
lead to a happier holiday meal. (Quora photo)
Focusing on the joy of a delightful turkey dinner or other traditional meals paired with family stories can be enough. Ham advises against using the dinner table as a time for a political agenda. She writes, "Thanksgiving gives us a chance to connect with community, with actual people who are imperfect, unvetted and uncategorized." Leave character assassinations and holiday "shout-outs" for another time.

Perhaps The Spectator's Nate and Thomas Hochman voiced Ham's hope for family gatherings best: "Family, after all, is a reprieve from — not a substrate for — the madness of the broken world outside."

Academics in California strive to help rural communities solve problems by using science and collaboration

City scientists in California are helping rural communities through partnerships and collaborations. "They aim to show how community engagement can break down urban–rural barriers in the United States," reports Virginia Gewin of Nature journal. "A growing number of scientists are pursuing community-based research partnerships. A common motivation, says Ashok Gadgil, an environmental scientist, is a sense of urgency in addressing environmental justice issues, especially in historically excluded communities. He added that some of the most satisfying projects use innovative technologies to find solutions to these communities' problems."

Ann Cheney, a medical anthropologist at the University of California "conducts health research in partnership with communities living near the Salton Sea, California’s largest saline lake, roughly 50 kilometers north of the Mexican border. In 2017, Cheney and her colleagues worked with researchers at the U.S. Border Health Commission to identify the health needs of Mexican immigrants in rural southern California," Gewin writes. "She has partnered with local groups to further analyze health impacts, particularly in undocumented immigrants. A major challenge, she says, is that many of these communities have grown resentful of urban academics who — backed by hefty grants — swoop in to collect their data but then fail to return with solutions."

Rural California has experienced "wildfires, flash floods, heatwaves and drought, and researchers are asking what they can do to help, says Diana Moanga, who manages the Spatial Analysis Center at Stanford University," Gewin explains. "Moanga has interviewed ranchers affected by dwindling water supplies, helped to create a risk index of mobile homes that are vulnerable to wildfires and assessed the potential for solar projects on tribal lands. Notably, she says, funders want to ensure that research results reach communities.

PRIME medical student are trained for unique
communities. (UC David photo)
"Perhaps the greatest health impact, however, comes from the the state's medical education program, known as PRIME, which aim to address California’s looming physician shortage, especially in rural areas, where only 9% of the state’s doctors practise. The programme has resulted in more than 750 medical-school graduates since 2004, and roughly 43% of those graduated from programmes based in or serving rural areas."aims to address California’s looming physician shortage, especially in rural areas, where only 9% of the state’s doctors practice," Gewin adds. "The program has resulted in more than 750 medical-school graduates since 2004, and roughly 43% of those graduated from programs based in or serving rural areas."

News bits: Bold Canada jays; permissive hunting laws in S.D.; meet the 'moose on the loose;' why cranberries?

Canada jays are gregarious and enjoy cookies.
(Photo by Mike Hubert, Shutterstock via Hakai)

Canada jays are special. They thrive in the cold, and the species has forged unique bonds with humans over the centuries. The life's work of 81-year-old ornithologist Dan Strickland reveals the beauty of that relationship and gives us clues as to how the birds will cope in an ever-warming world, reports Brian Payton for Hakai magazine. "Strickland repeats a series of squeaks made by loudly kissing the back of his hand. Soon, several more jays arrive. The first wild bird perches on his hand in less than two minutes." Meet the "Naturalist and the Wonderful, Lovable, So Good, Very Bold Jay."

Cranberries bounce when ripe,
(Photo by R. Kasparaviciene, Unsplash)

How did cranberries end up on our holiday menus in the first place? Serina DeSalvio explores the bouncy, floating, self-pollinating berry's origins for The Conversation, a platform for journalism by academics. "Wild cranberries are native to North America. They were an important food source for Native Americans, who used them in puddings, sauces, breads and a high-protein portable food called pemmican – a carnivore’s version of an energy bar made from a mixture of dried meat and rendered animal fat and sometimes studded with dried fruits."

Photo by M. Hoyt, Unsplash
The rules of where, what and how people are allowed to hunt game varies wildly from state to state, with South Dakota a standout among the Great Plains states. "No neighboring state is as liberal as South Dakota when it comes to traveling with loaded guns and hunting on, along or over roads," reports Abbey Stegenga of South Dakota News Watch. "Despite accidents in which hunters have been killed or wounded, it remains legal for a hunter to drive with a loaded, uncased firearm along almost any highway or road except an interstate. . . . The hunter can pull over, exit the vehicle and then fire at pheasants, waterfowl or other small game from the pavement or the ditch – even at a bird flying across the travel lanes."

Dedicated fans have followed the moose’s movements.
(Photo by Bernie Stang, Star Tribune)
From the flight of Flaco to the taunting turkey of New Jersey, some animals draw a crowd. This young male moose, dubbed by fans as 'the moose on the loose,' has thousands of followers in a central Minnesota Facebook group. His fans have been watching "hoping he would successfully make it across I-94," reports Jenny Berg of the Star Tribune. "There were sightings of the moose loping through harvested cornfields, nestled in tall grass and even prancing through the parking lot of a rural business stocked with dozens of all-terrain vehicles. But he still hadn't made it safely across the busy freeway." Read about his crossing here.



Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Earth is getting saltier, which threatens freshwater supplies, a new study shows

On icy roads, avoiding rock-salt helps keep fresh water safe. Wisconsin
is experimenting with cheese brine. (Illustration via Modern Farmer )
Humans have disrupted the Earth's "salt cycle," resulting in saltier soil and "potentially dangerous consequences for drinking water supplies, crop production, and ecosystems," reports Kate Yoder of Grist. "That's according to a new study published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. It's the first time scientists have documented the extent to which humans have changed the salt content of the land, water, and air across the globe."

Among their findings, "Researchers in Maryland and four other states found that 2.5 billion acres of soil around the world have gotten saltier, an area roughly the size of the entire United States, and it’s stressing out plants," Yoder explains. "Salt is even getting kicked up into the air: In arid regions, 'lakes are drying up and sending plumes of saline dust into the atmosphere,' such as the Aral Sea in Central Asia," the study says.

While all living things on Earth require water, more than 100,000 species, including humans, need fresh water. Yoder reports, "Salt pollution presents an 'existential threat to our freshwater supplies,' according to the study. It can corrode drinking water pipes, exacerbating lead pollution in water supplies, as it did in Flint, Michigan. Salinization has been supercharged by a host of factors: irrigation, deicing roads, mining, wastewater treatment, and even the use of salt-laden household items like detergent. . . . . Researchers found so much of it, they worried that salt could cause 'serious or irreversible damage across Earth systems.'"

Water sources along the coast face unique threats. "Sea-level rise can send salty ocean waters into the groundwater, making it undrinkable," Yoder reports. "It only takes 2 or 3 percent seawater to make the groundwater undrinkable, and removing salt from water is difficult and expensive."

Western states that rely on snowpack melt for fresh water can face problems from saline dust. Yoder notes, "Since salt can alter the freezing temperature of water, this salt-rich dust could accelerate snowmelt."

Road salt does the most harm. "That salt helps make roads less icy, but it eventually runs off and contaminates streams and drinking water," Yoder writes. "There are methods available to lessen the environmental impact while helping prevent cars from skidding across roads. . . . Wisconsin, playing to character, has incorporated cheese brine, preferably from provolone and mozzarella, into its efforts to deice roads with less salt."

The old pipeline from journalism schools to rural weeklies is drying up, so it’s time to turn local residents into journalists

Graphic via Arkansas Press Association; click to enlarge
By Joey Young

The path into journalism has historically been fairly set in stone: university, J-school degree and then working your way up into the industry. In the past, many started at small community weeklies to get experience and then found their way up, eventually working for the best papers in the country.

For years, that system worked for all involved. The community weeklies got freshly trained college graduates to cut their teeth at their rural newsrooms, and the larger papers were able to weed out candidates and use the rural weeklies to train up basic skills you didn't get in college.

That system is dead. No longer do college students consider rural weekly newspapers as a part of their journalism path.

Much like everything else in our industry, the old ways are going away, and new ones are forging ahead. Not everyone is thrilled about it, but all of us are going to have to get used to it, regardless.

Simply put, a combination of low pay, high debt and minimal entertainment options are making it difficult for new college graduates to consider weekly newsrooms, even if they wanted to.

Many fresh faces aren't interested in working in a community of 2,500 people with no good bar while being six figures in debt to their university and making $25,000 a year with no benefits, if they are even lucky enough to make that.

We aren't a good value proposition anymore—not when you can go into any number of other fields and live in a larger city with more things to do and better pay and benefits.

This has left our industry with a huge problem and a need for a mindset shift with employment.

Joey and Lindsey Young
Lindsey and I think there is a better way, and we aren't just preaching this, we practice it as well.

In 2022, we developed a program for the Kansas Press Association called Earn Your Press Pass. This program was created to give basic concepts of journalism and training to people who already live in a community so they can help fill gaps in the newsroom.

No longer are you left praying a recent graduate will see your ad and view your community worthy. You can recruit people who already see your community as worthy and want to help make it better in your newsroom.

Earn Your Press Pass gives what amounts to high-school level journalism training in an on-demand video format that, in its first year, has been deployed by over 20 state press associations.

Shifting our focus to recruiting people who already live in town allows us to change the value proposition, like we did with Tammy, someone we recruited from a life of retail work and was super excited to change professions with training.

Tammy read the paper, was engaged in the community, and had both her kids already in the school system, so she knew the players in town and interacted with them. What she lacked in journalism training she had in knowledge about the community and connections within it.

We just filled in the gaps. Now, she is a fabulous reporter who is happy to no longer be in retail. She went from a path that did not—and could not—include a journalism degree to being a great community journalist.

This recruitment strategy could be used with baristas, bartenders, wait staff, and any number of people who live in your community but are looking for a career that is viewed as more professional.

Our newsroom suffers from very little turnover as a result of this strategy. Recruiting full-time, part-time, and freelance people from the community and offering on-demand training means you have people who already live in town and want to stay.

Journalism is important, and to maintain this incredibly important institution in rural and disadvantaged communities, we have to change the variables. Earn Your Press Pass and a willingness to see someone different as a solution to an opening in your newsroom is just one way we can maintain this incredibly important fixture in democracy.

Joey and Lindsey Young are the majority owners of Kansas Publishing Ventures, which publishes three weekly newspapers in south central Kansas. They also developed the Earn Your Press Pass training platform being used all over the country as a training and recruitment solution for the industry.

Researchers share how climate change is altering Yellowstone; they hope education and science can help

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks attract millions of visitors from across the globe each year.
(Photo by Althea Dotzour, University of Wisconsin)

Iconic and awe-inspiring, Yellowstone and Grand Teton are a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which draws thousands of visitors each year. But climate change is gradually altering the parks' beloved expanses. To help people understand these changes, University of Wisconsin professor and ecologist Monica Turner and her team are finding ways to illustrate what global warming could look like in Yellowstone's future, reports Elise Mahon for UW News. "The shifts that result from a changing climate are often too subtle for any individual to see, and it can be difficult to fully understand. . . . Greater Yellowstone is just one ecosystem; however, studying how it responds as the climate heats up can help us understand what may happen in places around the world. . . . And since so many people love Yellowstone, it’s a great place to help the public appreciate the magnitude and tempo of climate change."

Turner and her team are "finding ways to help reveal tomorrow's Yellowstone in pictures based on the data. Using simulated images, they hope to show people landscapes that don't yet exist but might if the climate of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem continues to get warmer and drier," Mahon writes. 

Lodgepole pines have cones that release seeds during
a fire. (Photo by Althea Dotzour, UW)
Fire is the primary element propelling regional changes. "Fire has long been a natural part of the ecosystem. Lodgepole pines are one of the most common tree species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and they’re well adapted to the historical cadence of fires in the area. . . . Once the trees are old enough, they produce cones designed to open in fire, helping the trees establish new stands," Mahon explains. "But a warmer, drier climate is increasing the frequency of fires and disrupting the forests’ ability to recover as trees can no longer effectively disperse their seeds. . . . [There will be] fewer of the trees visitors are used to seeing in these iconic landscapes. . . .That’s concerning because forests are the backbone of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

"Studying the landscape and including more perspectives on sustaining them is vital to ensuring people from all backgrounds can visit, learn, connect with the place. . ." Mahon reports. "While tomorrow’s Yellowstone will look different than today’s, the magnitude of that difference depends on the actions of all of us."

To read more about student researchers' unique lives and be inspired, click here.
To find out more about Turner's research, click here.

Kansas governor says state faces hospital closures and sicker residents unless it expands Medicaid

William Newton Hospital serves south-central Kansas
patients. (William Newton Hospital photo)
With rural hospitals and clinics closing at alarming rates, many states are faced with rural populations that cannot access needed medical care. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is taking the issue on and "dedicated this year's fall to traveling around her state and talking with constituents and community leaders about expanding Medicaid," reports Liz Carey of The Daily Yonder. "In a state where 60 rural hospitals are at risk of closing, forcing the legislature to expand Medicaid would be a lifeline, she told Carey. Her new campaign, 'Healthy Workers, Healthy Economy,' aims to help residents understand what Medicaid expansion could mean for rural hospitals, rural residents, and the state's economy."

"In 2013, the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage to most adults with incomes up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, or about $41,400 a year for a family of four. To date, nine states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and Wyoming – have not expanded Medicaid," Carey explains. "North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper signed legislation into law that directed the state to expand Medicaid, but the implementation of that expansion has been stalled awaiting legislative action."

Numerous studies have shown that states without Medicaid expansion have rural populations with poorer health outcomes when compared to states that adopted the broader coverage. "In 2020, a look by Kaiser Family Foundation at more than 400 studies done since 2013 found that states that did expand Medicaid saw improvements in healthcare access, financial security, and health outcomes among other things," Carey reports. She told Carey: "We can only judge the impact of not expanding Medicaid by looking at the states around us that have. It's clear that Kansas has sicker populations and populations with more mental health issues."

In an event speech, Brian Barta, CEO of William Newton Hospital in Winfield, Kansas, (pop.1,726), said, "'It is estimated that Medicaid expansion will help over 150,000 Kansans and continued failure by the state legislature to support Medicaid expansion undermines the physical, emotional, and economic health for all of Kansas,'" Carey writes. "The closure of a rural hospital impacts more than just rural residents, though, Kelly said. Closed rural hospitals mean communities lose much-needed jobs and tax revenue."

Carey adds, "Kelly has noted that expanding Medicaid is her number one priority for the 2024 legislative session. While some other governors have taken action through executive order, Kelly said her hands are tied. Under the previous administration, legislation was passed that required any Medicaid expansion could only be done by the legislature. So far, she's tried five times to get that kind of legislation passed. . . . And while it's not the first time she's fought this fight, this time, she said, she's taking it to the voters."

Quick hits: Chris Stapleton; the first hydrogen-powered ferry; Stephen King's library; was Paul Bunyan a real man?

Chris Stapleton is one of the most famous men in country
music and beyond. (Photo by Stacy Kranitz, GQ)
The holidays mean getting together with relatives, but those gatherings can lead to heated discussions. As an antidote to arguing with Uncle Alan over religion, there is one topic everyone might be able to enjoy: Chris Stapleton and all his general awesomeness. Brett Martin of Gentlemen's Quarterly went road-tripping with the musical icon and asks, "Is Chris Stapleton the One Thing That America Can Agree On?"

Farm accidents happen, from tractor mishaps to pumpkin harvesting cuts. Each year, nonfatal injuries occur to about 33% of the farming population in the United States. One way to prevent accidents from becoming fatal is to be trained on how to slow blood loss until help can arrive. "Stop the Bleed is a nationally recognized, 90-minute certification program providing participants with hands-on opportunities to recognize life-threatening bleeding and intervene effectively by properly using a tourniquet in the event of blood loss caused by an injury," reports Jenny Schlect of AgWeek. Many 4-H extensions and rural nursing programs offer the training.
The "Sea Change" hydrogen ferry
(Switch Maritime photo via Canary Media)

While some of America is going all-in on electric, hydrogen power is also a renewable energy option. "America's first hydrogen-fueled ferry is set to launch in San Francisco early next year after more than five years in development," reports Maria Gallucci of Canary Media. "As the milestone nears, the vessel's owner says it's already looking to deploy more zero-emissions ferries nationwide — particularly in places where aging, polluting diesel boats still ply rivers, sounds and coastlines.

Remember when your phone stayed in your house or workplace? Many younger Americans don't remember when phones were tied to a landline. "My tween will never know the sound of me calling her name from another room after the phone rings. She'll never sit on our kitchen floor, refrigerator humming in the background, twisting a cord around her finger while talking to her best friend," writes Julia Cho for The Atlantic. "'We don't even have a landline anymore,' people began to say proudly as the new millennium progressed. But this came with a quieter, secondary loss — the loss of the shared social space of the family landline."

From the redwood forests to Maine islands, 
Paul Bunyan stories live on. (NG photo)
Famed lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox Babe are the stuff of some superbly American tall tales. But as history tells it, those stories "were spun from ever more ridiculous yarns," reports Josh Keefe of National Geographic. "But there's much more to his story. . . . In Bangor, Maine, a framed birth certificate of Paul Bunyan hangs in the city clerk's office. . . . Despite Paul Bunyan's 'birth certificate' and the many children's books that place his birthplace in Maine, evidence suggests that Bunyan was invented sometime after logging operations moved west and began clearing almost all of the old-growth forests in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, says Michael Edmonds, a historian and author of Out of the Northwoods: The Many Lives of Paul Bunyan."

Well, maybe Paul Bunyan never lived in Bangor, Maine, but Stephen King and his wife Tabitha did. King shared a tour of their Bangor home, now their library, with John Williams of The Washington Post. "Fear not, the king of chills serves as a friendly guide to his library," Williams reports. King told him: "The house has been here since 1845; we've been here since 1976. . . . But we don't really live here anymore, and it's kind of a time capsule."

Monday, November 20, 2023

Warmer temperatures are changing where plants and crops thrive. The USDA has new maps to help gardeners, farmers.

Regional plant hardiness often decides where any plant species or crop can thrive. "The Department of Agriculture’s 'plant hardiness zone map' was updated for the first time in a decade, and it shows the impact that climate change will have on gardens and yards across the country," reports Christina Larson of The Associated Press. "The map will give new guidance to growers about which flowers, vegetables and shrubs are most likely to thrive in a particular region. . . . Southern staples like magnolia trees and camellias may now be able to grow without frost damage in once-frigid Boston."

To use the USDA's interactive hardiness zone map with an area zip code click here. (USDA map via AP)

USDA's 2012 hardiness zone map. When compared to 2023's, the 2010 hardiness zones have shifted in some areas. (USDA map)

Americans will consume more than 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving; here are interesting facts about the bird

Only male turkeys or "toms" gobble. Females make a clicking
noise. (Penn State photo via Successful Farming)
In three days, many Americans will set their tables with an array of delectable food, but in many families, the turkey is the centerpiece of dinner delights. This Thursday, over 46 million turkeys will be consumed by Americans. But how much do you know about turkeys beyond the bird's signature "gobbling" calls? Jodi Henke and Chelsea Dinterman of Successful Farming serve up a plateful of conversational facts about Thanksgiving's farmed and wild turkeys. 

Hunters beware: Turkeys "can see movement almost a hundred yards away and also have a wide field of vision, which makes sneaking up on them difficult." Their top running speed is around 25 mph, and they can fly "short distances at up to 55 miles-per-hour. Wild turkeys spend the night in trees and are particularly fond of oak trees." While their night vision is poor, they do see in color.

You can tell how a turkey is feeling by looking at the color of its head. "When a turkey gets mad, excited, or defensive, its head and neck turn white. The more extreme the emotion, the whiter the color."

Benjamin Franklin favored the turkey as the best choice for our national bird. "The Smithsonian says Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter, praising the turkey as a much more respectable bird than the bald eagle." 

National Turkey Federation graphic
Thanksgiving birds tend to be hens, while "toms are further processed into cutlets and deli meats." Toms are ready for market at roughly 18 weeks and weigh 38 pounds.

In the wild, turkeys like to roost in trees, and "even if you can't see them, you can probably hear them. The wild turkey can make at least 30 different calls. Humans can hear gobbles from a mile away. Hens don't gobble; they make a clicking noise."

Feed is the most expensive part of raising a healthy turkey for farmers. It takes "75-80 pounds of feed to raise a 38-pound tom turkey."

Which state talks the most turkey? Minnesota. The state is "ranked No. 1 in U.S. turkey production, raising more than 40 million turkeys each year."

Dialysis centers have increasingly moved into rural areas, but travel still remains an obstacle, a new study finds

The treatment schedule ESRD requires means most
patients can't work. (Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash)
Once Medicare and Medicaid began covering dialysis costs, for-profit centers started opening in areas where larger clusters of patients live. A new study shows dialysis centers have increasingly moved into rural areas, reports Liz Carey of The Daily Yonder. Jan Probst, a researcher at the Rural and Minority Health Research Center in South Carolina, conducted a study that "looked at where dialysis centers are located and who lives in those areas, then compared the findings to similar past studies."

Dialysis cleans the blood, a job kidney organs usually do, but dialysis is used when kidneys fail due to end-stage renal disease. ESRD can be "caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, among other things," Carey writes. "Patients come to dialysis facilities and spend hours hooked up to machines that remove the blood from their body, filter it through an artificial kidney, and return it to the body."

In general, Probst's study showed that "rural residents have to travel farther to get to dialysis treatment facilities," Carey writes. "This isn't unexpected, she said. In the rural Southeast and Southwest, greater distances between communities mean those residents have to travel farther to get to their treatments. Rural residents, on average, have to travel just over 14 miles to get to the nearest facility. In contrast, urban residents live about 4.5 miles from the nearest dialysis center."

While rural residents still travel further for the expensive treatment, Probst notes her new study shows "a vast improvement from the last time Probst did the same research in 2013. In that study, rural residents had to travel about 40 miles to get to a dialysis facility," Carey writes. "The increase in access to dialysis centers isn't solely due to need, Probst said. Since her 2013 study, how dialysis is funded has changed. Now, federal policy requires Medicare and Medicaid to pay for dialysis treatments. And once Medicaid and Medicare guaranteed payment, Probst said, the market responded."

Even though most rural residents with ESRD may live closer to dialysis centers, the treatment is needed three times a week, and centers often don't offer evening or weekend care. Carey reports, "The burden dialysis places on rural patients would make maintaining any kind of job extremely difficult, Probst said." Probst told her: "I suspect that for most of these folks that [working] is not feasible, and they probably also have multiple things to deal with. They've lost their kidneys, but they still have to deal with their dialysis. There's a lot going on."

Agriculture round-up: A demolition derby with combines; financial challenges for young farmers; cranberry sauce

Clashing combines are a yearly event. (Photo by S. Arnoff Yeoman, Ambrook Research)
Farmers found a way to super-size the crash-bashing power of demolition derbies by pitting one combine against another. An annual event in rural Banks, Oregon, pop. 1,800, hosts a "traditional demo derby with farming flair, pitting harvester against harvester in a lumbering clash of the titans," reports Sarah Arnoff Yeoman of Ambrook Research. Mechanic turned rig-buster Jared Rigert told Yeoman: "As a young country boy, you're always interested in destroying stuff you don't have to fix after. . . . Everyone has barbecues, but not everyone has combines crashing."

Young farmers who dream of owning their own land, animals and equipment are up against financial challenges that can make farm ownership seem unattainable. Myron Friesen, co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies in Osage, Iowa, who works exclusively with farm families across the Midwest "to develop farm transition strategies," gives some sage advice and encouragement here.

Meet first-generation farmer Kevin Engel, who "faced the odds stacked against him" and became a successful farmer. But farming isn't Engel's only interest. The Virginia farmer has a "special affinity for a champion colt, nicknamed Big Red, aka Secretariat," reports Rhonda Brooks of Farm Journal. Engel told Brooks: "Meadow Stables, the farm where Secretariat was born and raised, is the first land I ever farmed." Brooks reports, "Engel and his family were able to purchase some of the fabled farm just this year, including a picturesque pasture, called Meadow Cove, where Secretariat grazed and played as a youngster."

Ocean Spray photo
Turkey farmers aren't the only stars of the Thanksgiving table. How about those cranberry farmers who are responsible for the controversial blob of gelatin on this Thursday's menu? "It’s the most polarizing dish at Thanksgiving," writes Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal. "You know it and love it, unless you hate it, in which case you might use homemade sauce cooked with some of the trillion cranberries that the company’s owners grew. Either way, Ocean Spray wins. But winning has an entirely different meaning at Ocean Spray, whose farmers are responsible for 65% of the world’s cranberries."

Farmers can be described by their multiple roles as botanists, mechanics, gardeners, quasi-veterinarians and tractor warriors. Given the physical work and mentally taxing skills farming requires, it's not surprising that farmers have stress. To help farmers find outlets and coping strategies, the Avera Farm and Rural Stress Hotline was developed, reports Ariana Schumacher of AgWeek. "This hotline meets agricultural producers where they are. With just one simple phone call, callers are connected with resources to help with mental health or other needs that they are facing."

Skip-row corn can fair better in windstorms.
(Photo by James Hitchcock via Farm Journal)
How do crops from cluster, skip-row or triple crop corn fare compare to each other for the 2023 growing season? John Smith from central Kansas, "grows grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat on predominantly sandy ground," reports Chris Bennett of Farm Journal. Smith planted cluster corn. . . . James Hitchcock from east-central Georgia aimed to discover "if skip-row corn adds bushels to the bin. . . . And Bill Jones from east-central Illinois, who grows dryland corn for tortilla chips, tried another round of triple-cropping. Read about their successes and learning curve mistakes here.